Blue Jays select speedy Canadian outfielder
Baseball Canada product selected in 25th round
TORONTO -- Canadian outfielder Cooper Davis has played against the Blue Jays before, and now there's a chance he could be suiting up for the organization in the future.
Davis was one of two Canadians taken by the Blue Jays during this year's MLB Draft, selected in the 25th round (759th pick overall). He has a strong commitment to Vanderbilt University, so his signing is no sure thing, but the Ontario native will now be tempted with an offer to play for his hometown team.
The 18-year-old is a graduate of the Canadian Junior National Team program, which had a chance to play against the Blue Jays in Spring Training. Davis singled and stole a base in the game, which was broadcast across Canada, and he had similar success in a tour against other professional teams in the Grapefruit League.
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"He's not overwhelmed. He's going to go in and compete," director and head coach of Baseball Canada's national teams Greg Hamilton said. "It doesn't matter who he's playing against, or what level he's playing against, he has confidence around his abilities."
The comparison that Hamilton made when he talked about Cooper was New York's Brett Gardner. The two outfielders are similar in stature, with Gardner listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds and Cooper at 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, but it's the style of play that makes these two the most alike. The ability to spray the ball all over the field, a willingness to work deep counts, flashes of power and a threat to run.
Former Blue Jays outfielder Devon White told the Canadian Baseball Network that Cooper had the potential to steal 60 bases. That might be a little extreme, but it speaks to his upside, and it helps that Cooper represents the type of player that has been in short supply in Toronto's system. Vanderbilt would be hard to turn down, but the Blue Jays would certainly be happy if he reconsidered.
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"He's a catalyst player," Hamilton said. "Speed is a big part of his game defensively, and he's that type of guy who's either going to hit at the top, in the one- or two-hole, and create. He plays with high energy and high tempo. Not to use the Yankee analogy, but if everything worked out and it all came together, [Gardner is] kind of what he is."
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The Canadian Junior National Team has done a lot to increase the exposure of its athletes over the years. The juniors travel to Florida every spring to compete against Major League organizations and take part in the Dominican Summer League.
There's plenty of opportunity to be noticed by scouts, which helps opens some doors that might have been closed before.
There were 20 Canadians taken over the course of three days in the Draft, and 13 of those went through the junior program. One of the biggest benefits has been extending the baseball season in winter months to better prepare Canada's ballplayers for success at the next level.
"To be ready to enter into professional baseball player as a high school player, you have to be pretty advanced, and you have to have a reference point if you want to success in terms of where your abilities fit," Hamilton said. "What we try to do with that program is expose them to professional competition, day in and day out, in a calendar year. Most of these kids have had well over 100 professional games. It's no guarantee of success, but they know exactly what they're getting into."